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From Mechelen to cologne: 9 markets christmas lovers must visit

Winter wonderland for many. StretchyBill (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Good news for Christmas addicts: Here’s a list of nine beautiful and very diverse Christmas markets and related attractions in Belgium and its surroundings. A chance to let your inner child out and enjoy yourself every week(end) from now to Christmas. Starting point for the exploration is Mechelen.

1. Mechelen Houdt je Warm
Mechelen hosts a Christmas market on three weekends in December, offering handcrafts, typical winter drinks, and an ice rink on the Dijle. Mondiale offers another market of the special kind in Mechelen on December 16 at the Lamot Congress and heritage center. The sustainable Christmas market offers a variety of original gifts, live music, and a photo exhibition.

When? Fri 14 – Sun 16 Dec, Fri 21 – Sun 23 Dec, Fri 28 – Sun 30 Dec
Opening times? 14, 21, and 28 Dec: 6 p.m. – 11 p.m., rest: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m
Where? Vismarkt, Haverwerf, Van Beethovenstraat and Korenmarkt

Discover lovingly-made artisan crafts on Leuven Christmas market. janmennens (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

2. Leuven (24km from Mechelen)
Leuven Christmas market has been described as the coziest in Belgium. Around 140 white stalls are offering gifts, specialties, and music. Maïthé Chini (23): ‘They have a very good variety of Jenever, the sad thing though is that they close already at 11 p.m.’ Related events are 3D light projections and animations by Skullmapping all over the city center, as well as winter walks such as the pub tasting tour and the silence walk. There will be Christmas concerts at the St. Peter’s church and several foodtrucks in park de Bruul from 28 – 30 Dec.

When? 12 – 23 Dec
Opening times? Mon & Wed: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Thu & Fri: 12 p.m. – 11 p.m., Sat: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sun: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Where? Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein

3. Antwerp (25km)
The Antwerp Christmas market is a great place to enjoy artisan products, mulled wine, and smoutebollen (donut fritters). The opening day will feature a group of 21 choirs performing together with Koor & Stem. Related to the Christmas market, there will also be a tubing slope, an audio story which you can listen to in various locations across the city, a heated terrace with a view on the cathedral, a winter fun fair, and a giant Ferris wheel. Sofie Verdonck (22): ‘I went to the Antwerp Christmas market at night 2 years ago with a few friends. It was really cozy with all the lights everywhere. I passed it every day for going to university and I started strolling along the stands because they looked so nice. There is also an ice rink every year but during the daytime, it’s crowded with school kids.’

When? 8 Dec – 6 Jan
Opening times? Mon – Thu: midday. – 10 p.m., Fri – Sat: midday – midnight, Sun: midday – 10 p.m
Where? from Groenplaats to Grote Markt and Steenplein

4. Brussels (30km)
The city of Brussels is offering many different Christmas market experiences from traditional, over covered, to alternative and vintage markets. Some of them offer light shows, ice rinks, concerts, and parades. Check out this page to find the market that suits you the best.

When? 30 Nov – 6 Jan
Where? Everywhere in Brussels

5. Winterland Hasselt (95km)
Also described as the coziest in Belgium, Winterland Hasselt has developed from a Christmas market into a whole winter village. The main attractions next to the Christmas market are the grand café – a large and cozy winter chalet hosting special theme evenings – an indoor ice rink, a Christmas ghost house as well as a roller-coaster, a place to try out archery, and Santa’s House.

When? 24 Nov – 6 Jan
Opening times? Mon – Thu: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Fri – Sun: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Where? Kolonel Dusartplein

Christmas Market in Leuven. BennyDB (CC BY-NC 2.0)

6. Christmas village Liège (109km)
The Liège Christmas market is the biggest and oldest in Belgium with 200 chalets and more than 1,5 million visitors. It is arranged in several villages, such as the oldest one on Place de Marché and the artisan alley in Rue Joffre. There is also an ice skating rink and a good opportunity to visit the European Circus Festival.

When? 30 Nov – 30 Dec
Opening times? Sun – Wed: 11 a.m. – 8-10 p.m., Thu – Sat: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.-midnight
Where? mainly Saint-Lambert Square and Marché de Liège Square

7. Magical Maastricht (130km)
The setting of the Maastricht Christmas market is very cozy and beautiful with thousands of lights and two old churches and many other historic buildings circling the square. Next to several food and beverage stands, special attractions are an ice rink, a Ferris wheel, a Santa show, and an Alpine-inspire chalet (Almhütte) which offers shelter in case it is raining or getting too cold. Lune Bernstein (20): ‘The market is very nice. Also, since last year, the owner of the market has changed so that you don’t have to bear those stores selling tooth brushes and smartphone gadgets anymore.’

When? 1 – 31 Dec
Opening times? Mon – Wed: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Thu – Sat: 10 a.m. – 1a.m., Sun: 10 a.m. – 12 a.m
Where? Vrijthof, 6211 LC Maastricht, Netherlands

8. Aachen (155km)
The Christmas Market in Aachen is famous for its exceptional atmosphere. It is located in the old part of Aachen in the squares and streets around the stunning city hall and the city’s cathedral. Next to several food stands, you can also find a lot of handcrafted products and even try your skills in ice stock curling. An obligation when visiting the Aachen Christmas market is to drink a Glühwein (hot wine) and to try out Aachen’s famous Printen (old-fashioned German Christmas gingerbread cookie).

When? 23 Nov – 23 Dec
Opening times? Daily 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Where? Marktplatz & Dom & Rathaus, Aachen, Germany

Traditional Aachen Christmas pastries. Allan Watt (CC BY-NC 2.0)

9. Cologne (235km)
The city of Cologne offers several world-famous Christmas markets. With six million visitors, they are definitely not worth a visit for those that want to avoid getting stuck in big crowds of people. The most famous, and at the same time Germany’s most popular Christmas market, is located on the city’s cathedral square. Next to Glühwein and food, the 150 stands offer a variety of handcrafted works. There is also a stage with over 100 sing-along events and other performances.

When? 21 Nov – 23 Dec
Where? Everywhere in the city

Merry Christmas, Zalig Kerstmis, Joyeux Noël, and Frohe Weihnachten! 🎅

Text: Alena Bieling, pictures: Allan Watt (CC BY-NC 2.0), StretchyBill (CC BY-SA 2.0), BennyDB (CC BY-NC 2.0), and janmennens (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)